Atrial fibrillation: the role of hypoxia-inducible factor-1-regulated cytokines


Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a common arrhythmia that has major morbidity and mortality. Hypoxia plays an important role in AF initiation and maintenance. Hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF), the master regulator of oxygen homeostasis in cells, plays a fundamental role in the regulation of multiple chemokines and cytokines that are involved in different physiological and pathophysiological pathways. HIF is also involved in the pathophysiology of AF induction and propagation mostly through structural remodeling such as fibrosis; however, some of the cytokines discussed have even been implicated in electrical remodeling of the atria. In this article, we highlight the association between HIF and some of its related cytokines with AF. Additionally, we provide an overview of the potential diagnostic benefits of using the mentioned cytokines as AF biomarkers. Research discussed in this review suggests that the expression of these cytokines may correlate with patients who are at an increased risk of developing AF. Furthermore, cytokines that are elevated in patients with AF can assist clinicians in the diagnosis of suspect paroxysmal AF patients. Interestingly, some of the cytokines have been elevated specifically when AF is associated with a hypercoagulable state, suggesting that they could be helpful in the clinician’s and patient’s decision to begin anticoagulation. Finally, more recent research has demonstrated the promise of targeting these cytokines for the treatment of AF. While still in its early stages, tools such as neutralizing antibodies have proved to be efficacious in targeting the HIF pathway and treating or preventing AF.

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The authors are grateful to our colleagues, who contributed invaluable clinical information.


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Correspondence to Savalan Babapoor-Farrokhran.

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Babapoor-Farrokhran, S., Gill, D., Alzubi, J. et al. Atrial fibrillation: the role of hypoxia-inducible factor-1-regulated cytokines. Mol Cell Biochem (2021).

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  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Cytokines
  • Hypoxia-inducible factor-1
  • Vascular endothelial growth factor
  • Plasminogen activator inhibitor-1
  • Platelet-derived growth factor
  • Insulin-like growth factor binding protein-3
  • Insulin-like growth factor-1